Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, is a mother, educator, and award-winning watercolor artist. As Second Lady of the United States, Mrs. Pence works to bring attention to art therapy and to the sacrifices made by military service members and their families.
Mrs. Pence dedicated 25 years in the classroom as an elementary school teacher before becoming the First Lady of Indiana in 2013. In her role as First Lady of Indiana, Mrs. Pence created the Indiana First Lady’s Charitable Foundation, a 501 (c)3, established with the purpose to encourage and support youth and families of Indiana. The Foundation’s board awarded over $600,000 in grants to charities throughout Indiana in three years.
As Second Lady of the United States, Mrs. Pence is committed to raising awareness and educating the public about the mental health profession of art therapy in the United States and around the world. She has observed art therapy programs in the Asia Pacific region, Australia, Europe, South America, Africa, Canada, and across the United States.
Mrs. Pence served as the honorary chair of the Art Therapy Initiative at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health in Indianapolis and was a member of Riley Children’s Foundation. She also served as a board member for Tracy’s Kids, an art therapy program for young cancer patients.
In February 2017, Tracy’s Kids honored Mrs. Pence with the Courage Award for her support of art therapy programs across the United States and world. Children’s National Health System also recognized Mrs. Pence for her support of art therapy and presented the Second Lady with the Hero Award in February 2017. In March 2017, Mrs. Pence received the Sister Cities International Diplomatic Leadership Award for her exceptional support of Sister Cities International mission: to promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation—one individual, one community at a time. In July 2017, Sister Cities International appointed Mrs. Pence to serve as the Honorary Vice Chairwoman for Sister Cities International.
In October 2017, Mrs. Pence launched her art therapy initiative, Healing with the HeART. She wants to elevate the profession so that people understand that art therapy is a mental health profession, and not arts and crafts. The Second Lady also wants to help people understand that art therapy is an option for various conditions, illnesses, and life experiences; and to encourage young people to go into the profession. To learn more, read why Mrs. Pence chose this initiative and watch her video.
Mrs. Pence also serves as an encourager to military service members, spouses, and their families. She has hosted and participated in numerous events to honor and recognize all of those in the Armed Forces. In September 2018, Mrs. Pence launched an awareness campaign to elevate and encourage our nation’s military spouses. As part of the campaign, Mrs. Pence educates military spouses about the available resources and opportunities to support spouses and their families. In August 2019, the American Legion Auxiliary awarded Mrs. Pence the Public Spirit Award for her contributions that positively impact communities through service to our military, veterans, and their families.
In January of 2020, Mrs. Pence accepted the honor of being the Lead Ambassador of PREVENTS, which stands for the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide. It is an interagency task force, which officially launched in June of 2020, that leads the development and implementation of a national, comprehensive roadmap to change how our nation treats mental health and understands suicide prevention. Her role as lead ambassador is to help veterans and all Americans remember to check in with themselves and loved ones and to keep their mental health a priority.
Mrs. Pence earned a B.S. and M.S. in Elementary Education from Butler University in Indianapolis. She is a Blue Star mom with a son in the United States Marine Corps. Mrs. Pence and Vice President Mike Pence have been married since 1985 and are proud parents of their adult children, Michael and his wife Sarah, Charlotte and her husband Henry, and Audrey and her husband Dan.